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Paul Grobstein's picture

International conferences on "Building the Scientific Mind" were held in The Hague in 2005 and in Vancouver in 2007. This is a place for continuing discussion of related matters, of how to define and make use of the scientific mind to encourage more effective and humane human communities both locally and world wide.

Like all Serendip forums, this is a place not for "final words" but rather for thoughts in progress, a place to find ideas that others have had that might be of use to you and to leave ideas that you've had that might be of use to others. Join in, and let's see what new stories we can create together.

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Paul Grobstein's picture

Building the scientific/inquiring mind: post meeting thoughts

Very exciting meeting. Thanks to all, Jan (and all the Vissers) for bringing us together, Emily Carr (and Vancouver) for hosting/hospitality, and everyone for highly generative (and enjoyable) story sharing.

A few notes to remind myself (and anyone else interested) of things that I want to think more about ...

The interesting question of whether we might want to broaden our objective by a slight rephrasing from "building the scientific mind" to "building the inquiring mind" (or something similar). I'm struck by the thought that the "scientific mind" is perceived by some as a needed counter balance to various forms of fundamentalism but equally by the need to make common cause with those who oppose fundamentalism in all guises and see "science" (not entirely inappropriately) as itself potentially one such guise (cf Fundamentalism and Relativism: Finding a New Direction and Science and Conversation: Learning to Avoid Dismissiveness).

Quite significant parallels between the need for "multidisciplinarity" at local, intellectual, and global contexts. Fragmented expertise creates significant problems of things "dropping through the cracks" in terms of social organization, intellectual inquiry, and ecosystems. In all three situations, there is a clear need for a more global ("holistic") perspective. My own inclination had been to rely on a small population of "fuschia dots" to provide that, and I still think that may be at least a needed step along the path, but I'm struck by the need/desirability of moving as well towards a more global story available to and used by much wider populations. The issue here is not only to prevent things "dropping through the cracks" but also to satisfy a general human need for more comprehensive and coherent stories.

The importance of sharing not only stories but the experiences/observations that give rise to them. In the context of traditional scientific meetings, that is done routinely by describing not only interpretations of observations but the observations themselves. As we broaden out, it seems to me important that we stay true to that principle. Stories are not enough; we need to know as well what experiences/observations have generated the stories we hear. And to allow that relevant and useful "observations" may well have a significant anecdotal and subjective character to them. Ways need to be found to share not only stories but also observations, ideally in ways that allow us to have collective shared experiences. Again, the "experiential" is a presumed component of traditional "scientific" meetings; the challenge is to make it more a part of our conversations.

The role of better understanding the brain and of story telling in promoting further development of the "scientific/inquiring" mind. I, of course, came into the meeting with this idea in mind. And left with a gratifying sense that it was an idea that I shared with many others. But also with a better understanding of the directions in which it needs to be further developed in order to contribute positively to the other valuable threads of the meeting. Hopefully a new working group can move things along in this direction (see /reflections/vancouver07/workgroup.html).

Looking forward to hearing other thoughts about the meeting, and to continuing conversation about them, both here and at You don't need to log in to post here but your posts will appear more quickly if you do (see above), so contact me if you'd like a user name and password.